+Scott Watson

Friday, 13 January 2012

What's So Different Between A Croissant And An Apple?

A strange question?  At first sight, maybe it's a little confusing, but when we explore the differences is more detail, it's quite easy to establish that an Apple a day is so much more nourishing, enjoyable and healthy than a croissant.  Here's the story...

This morning I visited Manchester to obtain guidance on how to run my Mac computer more effectively and easily. As I was travelling from Halifax which is 25 miles from Manchester and the rush-hour traffic can be rather unpredictable, I set off on my journey rather early.

Arriving at my destination an hour before my appointment with a 'Genius' (we'll come to that in a while) at the Apple Store, I decided to grab a coffee and croissant at a branch of a high-street chain of French cafes.  And here's where the challenge began.

My request for a chocolate croissant appeared to silently trouble the waitress who was taking my order.  A pursing of her lips and slight frown with her eyes gave me a hint that something wasn't quite right with my request.  I carried on reading my newspaper, the coffee arrived, but the croissant didn't.  A full ten minutes later I politely asked the waitress if my croissant would be arriving.  Her hesitance to any answer my straightforward question again gave a hint that something was awry.  She proceeded to nervously advise me that 'We're just warming it up for you now.'  My response of 'It's ok, I prefer my croissant cold please', was met with her reluctance to provide me (the customer...paying customer remember) with a cold croissant.

Long story short.  The croissant arrived, the tough pastry and hard chocolate on the inside clearly demonstrating that this was 'old stock' and not at all fresh.  As the waitress didn't return to my table to ask if everything was ok - because clearly it wasn't I left the croissant with only one bite out of it.  As the waitress passed I asked 'May I check with you, is this croissant actually fresh?'  She responded 'I'll take it off your bill sir'. I politely thanked her for her offer to remove the cost of the croissant from the bill and asked again, 'May I check, is this croissant fresh?' At which point the somewhat embarrassed waitress responded, 'Well...it was fresh YESTERDAY MORNING'. 

So what happened here?  The manager or person responsible for ordering 'Fresh' items over ordered? Perhaps the footfall wasn't as high as expected or predicted?  Maybe in an effort to cut costs in a tough marketplace, it's company policy to sell pastries that are more than 24 hours old?  Who knows?  Well, the manager should know.  But isn't it a poor reflection on the brand when they'll do everything they can (i.e. warm old stock up) to avoid detection?

This is a clear case of putting profits for the organisation way ahead of serving the trusting customer a decent product at a fair price. And, with the internet now being used as a feedback mechanism for such outlets - Tripadvisor.com being the most popular, what would drive a manager to mislead customers in such a way?  But that's why an Apple can save the day!

Having left the cafe a little disappointed, and a lot hungry, I entered the Apple Store in Manchester's Arndale Centre to meet a Genius.  'The Genius Bar' is the name given to the resident experts who supposedly, can resolve any issue a user may have with one of their products. However difficult or unusual your problem, they commit to resolving it for you, right there and then in most cases.

As I waited for my very own Genius to appear, an elderly gentleman who was booked in for a personal coaching session on his new Ipad struck up conversation with me.  He mentioned that at the tender age of 78 years young, he had decided to start learning again.  Retirement had become somewhat boring and he wanted to keep his brain busy.  But here's the stunning thing!

Just 10 days previous he had purchased his first ever Apple product, an Ipad 2.  He spoke about how excited he was to be presented with an eye catching white box that he'd expected the Apple store rep to open and show him all he wanted to know, but he was surprised that he was invited to open the box himself, take out the Ipad and switch it on.  He called this the 'Getting to know you' experience.

Realising that he was a little hesitant in getting to know his Ipad, apparently the Apple store rep asked him what he'd like to know about first.  How cool is this? Involving the customer and entering their world rather than simply doling out information and babble whilst expecting the customer to enter Apple's world. As he grew steadily confident with his new machine, he began asking more questions to the in store expert. But, the happy, excited gentleman's Apple world was about to take a dramatic turn.  He told me 'I was just learning over the table to get a pen to make some notes and then it happened...in a flash.'

CRASH.  The Ipad fell off the table, hit the floor and landed face down.  Yikes! This isn't sounding too promising.  When he picked up his Ipad off the floor, the facia was smashed. His question to the Apple store rep of whether the Ipad could be repaired was met with 'No, it can't be repaired as it's all one single unit...BUT, it was an accident so let me get you another one and we'll take this one off your hands'.

And that's the story.  How ridiculously good customer service is this?  The store/brand treated him fairly and what does he do? He becomes an ambassador for Apple. He tells me, I tell you and Apple become even more trusted as a fair, socially responsible organisation.  And of course, they will probably sell a few more products if this elderly gentleman has anything to do with it.

Isn't it a shame that whilst Apple replace a £439 item at no cost, and little inconvenience to their customer, a chain of cafes can't serve a fresh £2.50 croissant or at the very least, let the customer know that other, fresher choices are available?

Customer (Dis)Service is becoming more and more accepted in the UK.  But if you the customer says nothing, you're just teaching these organisations how to treat you. And it's definitely not win-win.



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